As the final day with the Kia Spectra nears its conclusion there is little if any lasting impression the little economy car has made. This is not because of the snobbery of an automotive journalist (if that's what you can call me) who is used to higher performance cars. I've driven numerous economy compacts and been impressed. Even the boring Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla outclass the Spectra. For all its improved quality and JD Power rankings the Kia still fails to beat the competition in almost every measure.
In the end the price tag, just over $15,000 for the base LX with only air conditioning and automatic transmission as option, was never justified. In the end we were driving a stripped model and I could not fathom writing a check out for $300 a month (a rough guess of a payment from the company's website) to pay for such a car. I'd much rather be in a Ford Focus (with a lot more features), Mazda 3 (for slightly more money) or a base Civic or Corolla at near identical prices. What did I like? The Spectra was very easy to drive, easy on gas (25 city / 34 hwy mpg), had tons of room and met most basic day to day driving needs. But it lacked a soul and most importantly for the segment it's in, it lacked value.
Clarification: In previous reports the Spectra may have been called a 2005 model. In fact this is a 2004 model. The all-new Spectra is designated a 2004.5 model. So be careful when shopping. A tip, the one advertised in the paper for $8,000 is the old model.